Last week I was part of a discussion about self-publishing vs. traditional-publishing. The topic is of direct interest to me (see my previous post on it here), so hearing the opinions of both self- and traditionally published authors was fascinating.
One of the arguments made for traditional publishing was the increased likelihood of selling additional rights in the future, and the example provided was movie rights. Selling rights is how authors earn their income, so the more rights sold; the more income generated. Discussion then centered around the likelihood of selling movie rights, and whether they outweighed more tangible pros and cons (e.g., higher royalties for self-published, potentially better production and marketing for traditionally published, etc.). Incidentally, when the point came up, no one could name a self-published novel that had been optioned.
So I found the recent news that 20th Century Fox and filmmaker Ridley Scott had acquired the rights to Hugh Howey’s self-published science fiction novel WOOL to be timely. This apparently follows on the heels of another option for a self-published trilogy—Universal Studios and Focus Features’ acquisition of E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Blurring the lines here, however, is that both books also have been picked up by traditional-publishers, but in the case of WOOL at least, the movie option appears to have happened around the same time. So it looks like Hollywood is beginning to find self-published works, which isn’t a surprise: they’re in the business of finding what sells and both of these self-published works are selling in a big way.
While this news further blurs the line between self- vs traditional publication, it doesn’t settle the discussion. I still think traditional publishing brings many advantages, especially for new writers looking for their audience. Yet as one writer in our discussion pointed out, lots of self-publisher writer’s drop into obscurity, but lots of traditionally published writers do too. There is no magic route to publishing success, so I think every writer needs to assess the options and make the decision that is best for him or her. It’s nice to know that two routes are becoming more available and increasingly more legitimate.